Ethnic voices at City Hall

Ethnic voices at City Hall

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April 21 2011

Amidst the ongoing debate about political pandering to the “ethnic” and “very ethnic” vote, 16 immigrants and refugees will take the microphone at Toronto’s City Hall on April 27 to talk about the passions and proposals of new Canadians.

For these new Canadians, what matters most is having a real voice in the future of Canada. While politicians are busy competing for the ethnic vote, they are often short on concrete proposals to address community concerns. The Newcomer Speakers Bureau wants that to change.

For the last three months, the group of 16 has been sharing their experiences, struggles and visions for change as part of a public speaking and leadership training series organized by the Mennonite New Life Centre and Voices from the Street. On April 27, these new Canadians will share their reflections with the public, elected officials and the media in a Graduation Ceremony at City Hall.

Participants have invited their local city counsellors, MPPs and MPs to attend the event. Joe Mihevc, Councillor for Ward 21, will offer a welcome. Jean Augustine, Fairness Commissioner Province of Ontario will offer closing remarks and speak on the work of the Fairness Commission. MC for the evening is Pat Capponi, a well-known author and activist on issues of poverty and mental health.

The April 27 event marks the launch of a Newcomer Speakers Bureau, committed to bringing the voice of lived experience to policy discussions on issues affecting immigrant and refugee communities. Their goal – recognition and respect as Canadians: “nobody has to struggle to find themselves a home here, because this is their new home.”

The event, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, is free and open to the public.

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Dawnmarie Harriott